One of the most difficult cuts to make for your college audition will probably be your 16 Bar
cut. The 16 bar cut is challenging because there’s a lot of ground to cover in a short period of
time. The selection needs to be compelling, musical, and also have a strong ‘want.’
Here are several important points to remember for every 16 bar cut.
1. It MUST have a beginning, middle, and end. Your 16 bar cut must have a narrative arc
or journey, no matter how brief. I need to have some exposition, a middle section, and
then a period. Here’s something to remember: if I get that whole narrative in 12 bars,
that’s also okay. If you can take me on the journey of the character, it doesn’t have to be
a RIGID 16 bars. Several of you have great 12 bar cuts and that is super!
2. Key: There is NO reason in today’s day and age to sing in a bad key, especially for a
16 bar cut. Work with your song coach to find a key that is appropriate and that sits in
your voice well. You don’t want a song that flips back and forth between head and chest
voice. Make sure the song is seamless.
3. The cut MUST have a strong ‘want.’ This means that there has to be a compelling need
from the character singing the song that drives the acting objectives. Remember you
won’t have much time to sing, so make sure you fully understand your objectives!
4. The cut must have a strong musical structure. There should be a strong sense of ABA
or some other kind of sectioning of the music. This will help not only for your acting
objectives, it will also help give you more diversity of music as well.
5. The cut must not be overly repetitive. Make sure that the music isn’t overly static. We
don’t want something so short to be musically repetitive.
6. Make sure you have a superbly strong START to the piece. AVOID complicated songs
and piano parts that could throw you off your game. Know if you need a bell tone, or a
short introduction (usually 1-2 bars). You should be able to launch into this song with
7. Make sure the music is totally clean. The pianist doesn’t care about your interpretive
notes, so be sure that any markings you have in the score are JUST for the pianist.
8. A 16 bar cut is a MICRO-CUT, so make sure that there aren’t any strange or demanding
vocal skills that you can’t do ‘on cue.’ If you can’t roll out of bed and belt the high note,
chances are it shouldn’t be in your 16 bar cut. Remember, you’ll be nervous, and this cut
is going to FLY BY. There should be no vocal hiccups or flaws in such a short song. If
that means you simplify, by all means, DO IT!
- Coach Justin (Vocal/Song Coach)
My College Audition
16 Bars and Under Two Minutes